Asia

Miriam College holds town hall meetings after sexual harassment complaints

Miriam College

Miriam College has created an independent committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment in its high school. After this, the school held a series of town hall meetings with its community in July 2020 to get more feedback and formulate concrete programs and policies that would ensure safe spaces at every campus level.

When Miriam College students and alumni took to social media to share stories and experiences of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by some faculty, the school responded by convening a Committee on Truth and Justice to review and resolve reported cases. On June 29, 2020, the school requested all aggrieved parties to report incidents of sexual harassment to safespaces@mc.edu.ph.

Chaired by University of the Philippines College of Law professor Atty. Ma. Gabriela “Gaby” Concepcion, the independent committee is now waiting for the complaints to be completed so they can act on the concerns while observing due process. It is mandated to recommend sanctions for those found guilty of inappropriate behavior.

Concepcion said the committee will review the school’s policies on sexual harassment, safe spaces and child protection and will recommend changes where needed to ensure that it is a safe and nurturing environment for its community. Other members of the committee are clinical psychologist Dr. Maria Lourdes “Honey” Carandang, corporate and data privacy law specialist Atty. Maria Resa “Sam” Celiz, Maryknoll sister Teresa “Sr. TD” Dagdag, MM, Ateneo Human Rights Center executive director Ray Paolo “Arpee” Santiago and former Presidential Human Rights Committee member and Human Rights Law and Constitutional Law professor Rene Sarmiento.

Town hall meetings were then conducted among Miriam College administrators, faculty, alumni, Student Council members from different academic levels and office employees from both campuses in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines and Nuvali, Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines. Initiated by the school’s Institutional Committee on Ethics and Protocol, the meetings allowed community members to openly share and articulate their understanding of safe spaces.

The ICEP is now gathering and studying the results of the town hall meetings to serve as basis for new school policies, processes, programs and practices that will be integrated into handbooks and other relevant platforms for students, faculty and employees. The committee has been tasked to ensure that the new policies are aligned with the Safe Space Act.

Moreover, the community members were able to not only identify existing systems, culture, programs and activities in their respective units that either prevented or promoted safe spaces but also propose solutions that would strengthen safe spaces. Special focus was placed on processes that would allow students to report cases of sexual harassment without fear or judgment.

“Recent developments opened our eyes to the need to listen and seek the truth behind the stories of harassment in our campus,” Miriam College president Laura Quiambao-Del Rosario stated. “The welfare of our students is paramount to us and the first step in our efforts to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future is to look inward and get the consensus of our community about causes and solutions to the past situation. The town hall meetings were crucial to hear out observations, opinions and recommendations to create and maintain Safe Space in our institution moving forward.”

In a letter to the Miriam College community in June 2020, Quiambao-Del Rosario said the school will undergo a serious process of self-criticism to re-define more deeply the meaning of justice. Miriam College High School assistant principal for student affairs Sofia de Guzman said, “The Town Hall meetings were very helpful for us to express our ideas, emotions, and perceptions on the issues surrounding safe spaces.”

“The suggestions on how MC could do better highlighted transparency and promoted respect and inclusivity,” de Guzman continued. “It was not only a necessary exercise but also a clear demonstration of the school’s commitment to undergo a process of self-reflection and redirection.”

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